Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rock-a-bye, and goodnight, go to sleep now, my little demon....

Have I mentioned that our child has never (yes, that's what I said), never slept through the night?

Don't get me wrong, I say that without the expectation of any sympathy whatsoever. Husband and I are fully aware that a lot of the elements of our nighttime routine have created that dynamic. There was the co-sleeping and the lying with him until he falls asleep at night and then going into his room when he wakes up in the wee hours and lying down with him until he falls asleep again. Were I not such a devoted mother lazy shit, I know I could definitely get up after he falls back to sleep and sneak back to the comfort of my own bed. Which would be nice, because Husband rarely twists and turns with such exuberance that I wake to find his cold, clammy feet pressing insistently against my neck.

But really, I've learned--my kid doesn't sleep through the night. If I were to get up and go back to my room, even if I could successfully extricate myself from his pudgy-fingered clutches and tiptoe out of his room without being detected, I know that the second I fall back to sleep in my own bed, he will stir in his, and finding the bed beside him empty, the cycle will start over and I will spend all night running a one-woman relay race from my bed to his. So in an effort to get a "good night's sleep" (ha!), I just say "eff it" and curl up in Ethan's bed when he first wakes up sometime around midnight. I have a hard time falling asleep before that because my internal clock knows that he will wake up sometime soon, and nodding off while you're expecting the pot to boil is not easy feat.

None of this really here nor there in terms of my post, but it's a little bit of background. As much as Husband and I lovelovelovelovelove Ethan, we also love it when he goes to sleep at night. Because then for a couple of hours we can quality time with each other gaze vacantly at the television (which is finally set to something besides Noggin), trying not to drool. I used to be so much smarter, really. I used to read newspapers (do they even exist anymore?) and do crossword puzzles. Now I scan CNN's tweets on my Tweetdeck and absentmindedly play Scramble on Facebook while I watch that pilot guy kiss a bunch of skanks under the guise of "I'm trying to find a wife!" (hello, Bachelor, I'm talking to you).

So Husband and I are knee-deep in chagrin here as we enter this next phase of nighttime parenting. The preschooler dawdle. That turns into the preschooler tantrum. That turns what was a 25 minute bedtime routine into an hour-long battle of wills that is the parental equivalent of being water-boarded by your 3 year old.

First, Husband and I give the countdown to bedtime. "Ten more minutes, Ethan!" At this point, since E isn't able to tell time, Husband and I feel free to adapt the time-continuum to suit our purposes. When only two minutes have elapsed since the first warning, we might say, "Five more minutes, kiddo." Or, if he's playing nicely and happily, sometimes we will wait ten minutes before saying, "Five more minutes, kiddo." Yes, we are drunk with power. Oblivious to the countdown until he hears, "Okay, buddy time for bed!" he is likely to, at that point, flip his proverbial top and scream that he is not ready for bed. He has found that running and hiding in a tiny little corner of his play room or into the guest room and slamming the door is an effective way of prolonging this process, so guess what? He does that. While screaming.

Fine. So he loses a book for that. Normally (ha, what's "normally"?!) he gets three books at bedtime. He loses one each time he pushes the boundaries to the point of making Husband and me mental. He gets the chance to re-earn the book from that moment on. Some nights he earns the books back. More often than not lately, he ends up losing all his books and that makes for a LUNATIC child who refuses to go to sleep. So this is really not working for us.

Once he's in bed, there is the predictable, "I need some water." If he is given water, he needs more water. If he isn't given water, see the above LUNATIC child who refuses to go to sleep thing. Then, if Husband is with him, he wants me. If I am with him, he wants Husband. Briefly (and by briefly I mean for about an hour one night) we gave into this musical parent routine and found ourselves going in and out of his room like a revolving door before agreeing that it was madness. So now he gets who he gets. And whoever he gets, gets an hour of screaming.

So internet, I ask you, for the well-being of my sanity and my quality time couch-monkey time with Husband, what do you recommend? I ask that with the caveat that walking out of his room and letting him scream it out on his own really isn't an option. It's just not something Husband and I will ever be comfortable doing AND I don't really want to spend my evening washing vomit out of sheets. Because that's how that scenario will end.

I'm trying to see this experience through his eyes and figure out what he's trying to accomplish with this change of behavior, or what he's reacting against that is suddenly different in his eyes. I want to find a way to make bedtime something we both enjoy rather than something that makes our last feelings of our day together miserable. I know I'm going to spend most of my overnights in his room until he says, "Ugh, mom, go sleep in your own bed, will ya?" But I'd like not to have to spend an hour in there every night even before he goes to sleep.


Becca said...

I have no idea. SuperNanny always seems to have success with the sitting on the floor ignoring them technique where she moves a little further away every night.

(We were let 'em scream-ers, full disclosure. They don't do it forever, but it is awfully hard to listen to.)

lonek8 said...

well, you know what a stickler I am for a schedule, so we keep our routine pretty much exact every night - the kids get teeth brushed and into jammis and then they can come back downstairs to watch some tv until bedtime. We always say "next commercial" so they know what the cue is for when it will be bedtime, and most nights once teh commercial comes on they know it means bedtime and are ready to go. Sophie just gets put to bed since she is still so little and the REAL routine begins. We all sing to Jack, then kiss him and go into Izzy's room. Brett sings her a song and then goes back to jack's room, and I sing her a couple of songs and leave the room. She knows that she can play very quietly for a little while before going to sleep. Lately the routine has been getting longer - going bac into Jack's room is new and we have added some reading before the singing, etc, but in general it is exactly the same every night. if jack is freaking out I just start singing and go about the routine as usual and he typically calms down seeing that the onset of bedtime is unavoidable.
I don't really know if this is going to help you since none of my kids have every thrown tantrums and had such drama with sleeping like you describe from Ethan. But maybe if you spend some hard times of staying calm and on task during the screaming and tantruming getting a set routine down so he knows what to expect (like the 3 books etc) then he will get used to it and start to accept you being boss and it will get easier? I don't really know. Good luck!

Ezza said...

I was just able at Christmas time to get my three year old out of MY bed. i think my major mistake was making bed in my bedroom FUN for her. We'd share giggles and make goofy noises at eachother with the lights out, etc. When I asked her to sleep in her room, she was getting left out of the fun. At Christmas, we painted her room and cleaned it up, and put a touch-lamp up on her bedside table. Now our routine is a warning similar to how you do it - 5 more minutes/after this show/once we finish x, y, or z. We negotiate on a couple of books, and if she isn't tired, she's allowed to keep her light on the low setting and read until she's tired. Amazingly, nine times out of ten, I'll come back upstairs after about half an hour, and voila - kid asleep and light OFF! It's amazing, I tell ya.
Our MAIN issue was her feeling like she was left out of the fun. I usually just read quietly on the couch until I'm sure she's down for the night. She'll even use "helping with the laundry" as an excuse to get out of bed. Quiet time and no rewards once bed time is negotiated is really the key for us.

cicadalady said...

i probably don't have much productive advice for you. noni still comes in our bed, but she sleeps well in there and i kind of like it since she's all snuggly and warm... as for going to bed, i have never been able to be a ferberizing during the night mom, but i pretty much don't want to see anyone under the age of 18 after 8 pm, so i have done the whole cry-it-out thing for going to bed with each of them. short of that, i'm not sure. maybe his pediatrician would have some advice? good luck!! i feel your pain for sure.

Emi said...

I don't know what to tell you, except that I feel your pain. In theory it's always easier to say something but practice is a whole other issue. So on that note, maybe what lonek8 suggested about no matter what he does you guys try to stay calm and "do" the routine may help. The other thing is you might want the routine to last "longer' in the sense of maybe like an hour before bedtime no tv ( I have read that tv can get in the way of sleep), and then he can just play (or eat) I know he does not like to have a bath every night so that out right?) and although I understand about the time being really random maybe being consistent can help too.. a mom told me they set up a kitchen timer for like 10 minutes and when it beeped that helped give her son the signal to do whatever they were supposed to do..because although they cannot tell time, they can sense it otherwise why would they get up at a consistent time every night... I think there may be an internal clock.. so maybe trying to include other things in the routine like turning off the tv and the 3 or 2 of you sit and talk about your high and lows for the day, - or whatever you want... maybe just making it longer will give him more time to wind down more.. and although that does not solve your problem about the routine taking an hour it might cut down on the screaming or whining. Maybe doing a short yoga routine .. I don't know... :-) just some thoughts... good luck.. if you figure it out let us know..

Erin said...

I feel your pain! Blake used to sleep okay (and by okay I mean waking up once or twice a night but okay staying in his bed) and then his sister came along and he started roaming the house when he woke up, eventually sleeping in bed with me. Now we've got him sleeping in his own bed at night but it's been horrible to get him there. We tuck him in and shortly after he's up and has to be put back to bed again... and again... I've been talking to him about what he should dream about lately and that has sort of worked. But yeah, I'm at a loss. Don't even get me started on the 9-month old and her sleep. One word - nightmare.

Mama Bub said...

My two and a half year old is a good sleeper, but he's the king of the night time manipulation. He asks for mommy when daddy is there, wants more books, a drink of water, etc. My husband is a pushover and gives into whatever he wants. "How can I deny him his love of reading??"

I have just started saying "no" once and leaving it at that. On bad nights I will sit in his room until he falls asleep. Usually he's asking for "water, waaaatttteeerr" for a while. We tell him when he gets a drink of water BEFORE bed that this is his last drink. I just have to ignore, ignore, ignore. It sucks, but the second I give in, I've doomed myself to weeks on end of trying to break the cycle.

But sleep issues? Suck. And this whole all kids are different thing makes it all a little bit tough.

cicadalady said...

i feel like noni must have read that i wrote this because, seriously, ever since she has been HORRIBLE about going to sleep! and, i don't know what to do because the girls are in the room with her so it's rough making them endure her screaming at the door. aak! i totally feel your pain.

Elizabeth said...

I too feel your pain. We are going through a similar phase with your 20-month-old. Lately she's been fighting bedtime until 10:00 p.m. or later, even though we start the routine at 7:30. And then at least 3-4 nights a week she wakes up after midnight and can't seem to get back to sleep for at least 1.5 hours, sometimes 3 hours. We are about to lose our minds...

I'm thinking of trying not so much a CIO as an enforced lights out and then lie quietly with her (even ignoring her, but still be in the room) until she goes to sleep. Not sure what else to suggest...

Hope it gets better soon.

MamaBear said...

You may have already "heard" me say this, but we've had success with a Special Nightlight. In K's case, it's actually a string of LED butterfly lights that hang in her room over the mirror.

We made a big deal about how they're special big-girl night lights that are ONLY for when she stays in her bed at bedtime, with no crying out for us once she's in bed. The first night, we turned them on at bedtime, she was thrilled, we reminded her of the rules, and it wasn't 5 minutes before she got up and wandered back out into the living room. We just calmly told her we'd have to turn off her special butterflies for that night, but she'd have a chance to try again the next night.

Yep, there were tears at that point; but there were tears before we started the system, too, so I figure it all evened out. We weren't mean about it and didn't leave her to sleep in the dark--if she loses the butterflies, she still gets a plain night light or her bathroom light on, but the butterflies are gone for the whole night...otherwise, it's the onny-offy game all night long.

It took maybe 3 nights before she got the hang of it, and major congratulations, reminders, encouragement, and reassurance were involved. To this day, if we slip up one night and let her get out of bed once without turning off those butterflies, it's ON from then on--she's up constantly until we crack down again. Consistency is key.

I have no idea whether this helps with E or not, but it might be worth a shot. Do they make Beatles night lights?? ;)